The Amalfi coast appears to have been magically suspended between the blue sky and the iridescent sea by a painter who wanted to use warmer color gradients to create a landscape that enchants the visitor at first sight, providing a thrilling experience and such an evocative view that makes one question for a moment whether it is real. It is a land where the sweet scent of lemon blossoms harmonizes with the most aromatic scent of Mediterranean vegetation and the acrid scent of saltiness; where the brilliant colors of the majolica domes, bougainvillea and carnation pergolas give an obvious colored touch to the typical whitewashed houses, clinging to the last outcrops of the Lattari Mountains that plunge dramatically into the sea.
A vertical landscape, in brief, is characterized by a magnificent labyrinth of stairways and small alleyways linking the environment’s two primary elements: the mountains and the sea. A constant sequence of headlands and inlets, bays and fjords, intermingled with pebbled beaches and cliffs on which you can still see the ancient viceregal towers, which served as the first line of defense for the local inhabitants against Saracen raids. The transition from sea to the mountain is seamless: the mountain slopes were terraced throughout the ages, molded by human work to form flaps of fertile land, and compared to the mythical Hesperides by the Italian writer and naturalist Giambattista Della Porta during the Renaissance period. The magnificent SS. 163 route, constructed in the first part of the nineteenth century during the Bourbon time and traditionally regarded as one of the most beautiful roads in Italy, connects all the villages along the Amalfi coast. Following the natural flow of the coastline, the route is full of bends, wedged between the rock and the sea cliffs, with breathtaking views at the exit of each tunnel and hairpin turn. Before the building of the coastal road, inhabitants traveled to all the towns through mule routes and footpaths, which still exist and are favored by trekkers for the breathtaking vistas they offer.
There are 13 settlements sprawled across a sun-kissed length of the land and designated by UNESCO as a “World Heritage Site”:
The town of Amalfi, which lends its name to the coast, is located at the entrance of the Valle dei Mulini; it was the first of the Four Maritime Republics of Italy and for a long time controlled commerce with the East. It appears to be a collection of white cottages clinging to the cliff and linked by covered lanes and stairs. The majestic Cathedral of St. Andrew, with its spectacular stairway, Arab-Norman bell tower, and exquisite Cloister of Paradise, stands in the midst of the main plaza. Also worth a visit are the Handmade Paper Museum and the Ancient Arsenals of the Republic.
Atrani, a lovely and quaint hamlet located at the entrance of the Valle del Dragone, is a natural amphitheater on the sea, allowing visitors stunning vistas as well as the opportunity to spend calm moments in the main plaza, away from mass tourist and quite near to the beach. During the reign of the old Maritime Republic of Amalfi, the official investiture of the Doges took place at the beautiful Church of San Salvatore de’ Birecto (X century).
Cetara, a fishing community centered on a church dedicated to St. Peter, is a busy fishing port that specializes in the processing and storage of tuna and anchovies, as well as the creation of gastronomic delicacies (such as anchovy sauce).
Conca Dei Marini is a natural balcony overlooking the sea, surrounded by Mediterranean greenery and terraced gardens filled with “Sfusato Amalfitano” lemon trees. Conca Dei Marini is a seaside community with a marine culture dating back generations. According to history, the first sfogliatella Santa Rosa was created in the Monastery of Santa Rosa, which clung to the steep slopes of a rocky outcrop.
Furore is also known as “the town that doesn’t exist” due to its urban plan of dispersed settlements surrounded by grape terraces. It is also known as “the painted town” because to the amazing murals painted “en plein air” on the traditional whitewashed homes. Furore is primarily and foremost the town of the fjord, cut over the ages by the river Schiato, where the MarMeeting-High Diving World Championship is held every first Sunday of July.
After World War II, Roberto Rossellini, an Italian neo-realist filmmaker, made Maiori, the historic Reghinna Major, his favorite location. The spacious promenade is bounded on the east by the Norman Tower and on the west by the marina and the lovely Miramare Castle. In the old town center, elegant Neoclassical structures mingle with historic vaulted dwellings, which reflect the original population of the coastal city, which was constructed around the medieval fortification of Thoro-Plano. Along SS. 163 “Amalfitana” lies the historic Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia, which is also of importance.
Minori, the old Reghinna Minor, has a rich history of producing handmade pasta and of processing the renowned Amalfi coast lemon PGI. The modest town of the Divine shore, surrounded by verdant terraced gardens, conceals architectural treasures of immense significance, such as the remnants of a Roman house from the first century A.D., the Basilica of Santa Trofimena, and the Arab-Norman bell tower of Annunziata.
Positano is one of the most well-known locations along the Amalfi Coast due to its scenic stairs, whitewashed buildings that follow the natural contours of the hillside, and steep terrain. Positano is renowned for its handcrafted leather shoes and cotton/linen clothing (the so-called “Moda Positano”), its stunning XIX-XX century structures in Mediterranean style, and its picture sceneries with the tiled dome of the major church and the Li Galli islands in the backdrop.
With its true and genuine ambiance, apart from mass tourism, Praiano is distinguished by tiny alleys winding through Mediterranean flora, terraced gardens, and traditional buildings that lead straight to the sea. Here you may see the most romantic sunset along the entire coast: as the sun gently sets behind the mountains, it illuminates Capri with its Faraglioni, the Sorrento Peninsula, and Punta Campanella.
Ravello, lauded by the Italian author Boccaccio in his Decameron, was a source of inspiration for Richard Wagner, who envisaged the enchanted gardens of Klingsor while admiring the grounds of Villa Rufolo. It holds one of the oldest music festivals in Italy, the Ravello Festival, which features a new theme each year and encompasses many creative fields. Ancient palaces and noble houses mix alongside modern structures, such as the Auditorium created by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, in addition to medieval religious structures. The view from Villa Cimbrone Belvedere is truly breathtaking and unquestionably one of the most famous in the world!
Scala, the oldest village on the Amalfi coast and the birthplace of fra’ Gerardo Sasso, the founder of the Knights of Malta, is surrounded by extensive chestnut tree woods. It still retains its tranquil and soothing ambiance, which is in perfect harmony with its numerous historical monuments, which indicate the riches of the people throughout the Middle Ages, who consisted mostly of wealthy merchants. The remains of the Basilica of Sant’Eustachio, the greatest church in the Duchy of Amalfi, are located in a panoramic location overlooking the town of Pontone, and the outside side of the apses still display superb inlay work, paintings, and valuable marble.
Tramonti, a hill town on the Amalfi coast, is surrounded by the lush vegetation of the Lattari Mountains, which consists of chestnut trees and vineyards producing full-bodied wines (tintore wine). It is the ideal place to enjoy the authentic flavors of local cuisine, especially dairy products, bread, and pizza prepared since the Middle Ages in rural ovens using rye, millet, and barley flour seasoned with lard and spices.
Vietri sul mare is the first village on the Amalfi coast when approaching from Salerno and is renowned internationally for its manufacturing of exquisite ceramics with vivid hues, which dates back to the XV century. In this town coexist harmoniously noble buildings with richly decorated facades and the picturesque hilltop villages of Raito and Albori, where you can still enjoy an antique flavor atmosphere, the organic architecture of the Solimene ceramic Fabric by Paolo Soleri, and the Neoclassical style Villa Guariglia, whose Belvedere Tower houses the Provincial Museum of ceramic.